In 1908, the Yogi Publication Society published The Kybalion, a book claiming to be based on the works of Hermes Trismegistus and to contain a modern interpretation of Hermeticism. The book’s authorship is attributed to “The Three Initiates,” but their identities are not revealed. It is clear now that The Kybalion was written by the American mystic and New Thought advocate William Walker Atkinson.1 Since its publication, The Kybalion has introduced thousands of people to American mysticism and occultism. It has been a crucial cornerstone in the foundation of many modern esoteric traditions and societies. However, as we have discussed before, it does not accurately represent Hermeticism as it claims.
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  1. Deslippe, Philip, and Three Initiates. The Kybalion: The Definitive Edition. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher, 2011. p 2. 

Cover photo of The Weird of Hali: InnsmouthThe Weird of Hali: Innsmouth
John Michael Greer
Arcane Wisdom, 2016
276 pages, $50
Signed Limited-Edition Hardcover

The Weird of Hali: Innsmouth is the first in John Michael Greer’s series of Lovecraftian novels. Greer is a prolific author and accomplished member of several pagan, occult, and fraternal communities, most recently founding The Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn. He has published on many topics, including the occult, peak oil, and Druidism. He is also the writer of the long-running blog, The Archdruid Report. Before I get into my review of his latest novel, I should disclose that I know John Michael and that we were neighbors for a couple of years in Southern Oregon.

The novel follows the adventures of Owen Merrill, a history student at Miskatonic University, whose exploration of the life of Howard Phillip Lovecraft bring him into contact with the strange new science of Noology while plunging him into a world of exciting and bizarre supernatural adventure. The narrative is structured like a classic fantastical adventure story. Owen is an active participant in his adventure and a likable character. I found myself empathizing with his plight and cheering him on.

Greer is a skilled author, and his skill shows in many ways. One that I found particularly surprising was his control of mood and pacing. The book starts off slow, with too much detail paid to the most minute detail. He enumerates every step of Owen’s day, every meal eaten, every boring class. The reader becomes dulled by the mundanity of the story. However, when the secret world of the novel is revealed and events really start to take shape, the pace and style of the book shift accordingly, and suddenly the reader is swept along in a riveting adventure.

I do not want to reveal too much of the novel’s plot in this review. As suggested by the title, subject matter, and publisher’s blurb, the story involves the Cthulhu Mythos and Lovecraftian themes. However, Greer’s approach to them is not only novel, but transformative. His vision of the Great Old Ones and their servants is new and fresh. In fact, the change to the Lovecraftian paradigm is so enjoyable and unexpected that I really look forward to further books in the series.

This book is a handsome volume. It is a tightly-bound octavo with a glossy green faux-snakeskin cover with gold embossing. It features custom-designed endpapers with strange Lovecraftian horrors, and is both well-designed and well-presented. It is a sturdy book, and an absolute pleasure to read. Only 500 signed hardcover copies are being issued. However, the publisher hinted to me that a forthcoming paperback edition can be expected. This book deserves a broad audience, so I look forward to seeing that happen.

The Weird of Hali: Innsmouth deserves a place on the bookshelf of every fan of Lovecraftian horror. Greer’s fresh take on a century-old genre brings a much-needed life and excitement to the overused world of “nameless terrors” and “cthonic architecture.” I enjoyed this book and recommend it heartily.

The Arcane Wisdom edition of The Weird of Hali: Innsmouth is no longer available, but you can find a new edition at Amazon.com here!

Who is Asclepius?

In the Hermetica, we learn that Hermes Trismegistus has students. The two most prominent are his son Tat and Asclepius. Who is Asclepius? In addition to being a figure from Greek mythology, Asclepius has an entire book of the Hermetica named after him. Let us take a look at Asclepius and learn more about who he is and why he’s important to Hermetic philosophy.
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Monotheism in Hermetism

How is monotheism addressed in ancient Hermetism? The Corpus Hermeticum and other Hermetica talk about God all the time, so let’s take a look at the Hermetic views on God and what monotheism means to this classical religion.

"Hermetica" by CopenhaverScholars have been working to categorize the various views of God and divinity in the Hermetica for years. There are two general categories that most use: optimistic monist and pessimistic dualist. An optimistic view would focus on the good and worthy parts of the cosmos and creation, thus deducing that all of creation was part of a good and benevolent deity. This monism ends up being described in book I of the Corpus Hermeticum in a way that is panentheistic, meaning that all of the cosmos is part of God, but that God also exists beyond the cosmos.
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Hermetism and Hermeticism

What is the difference between Hermetism and Hermeticism? When you start studying the Hermetic tradition and Hermetic philosophy, you will run across both of these terms. Let’s learn what the difference is.

Hermetism is Rooted in Antiquity

Hermes with two figuresHermetism is used by modern writers to refer to the philosophical schools of late antiquity, meaning the era that produced the Corpus Hermeticum, the Nag Hammadi texts, and other related works. It can also refer to to commentary and work dealing with the philosophical Hermetica, perhaps reaching even into modern times. Note that “late antiquity” is a vague period, but sometimes it can cover a time period as late as the 8th century CE.1 That means that even the Emerald Tablet can be considered part of Hermetism.
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  1. “Late Antiquity.” Wikipedia. Accessed April 10, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Late_Antiquity

What is Gnosis?

Robert Fludd engravingMany religious or spiritual systems dealing with mystical experiences have a concept of gnosis. It is contrasted with rational knowledge in that it is based on a personal and usually profound experience, and is set apart from faith in that it doesn’t appeal to a sense of acceptance or emotional argument.1 Gnosis is a Greek word, γνῶσις, and while it translates as “knowledge,” it is not the only Greek word to do so. To understand what it means, it needs to be compared to two other words with similar meanings, epistēmē (ἐπιστήμη) and pistis (πίστις).
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  1. Lachman, Gary. The Quest for Hermes Trismegistus: From Ancient Egypt to the Modern World. Floris Books, 2011. 23-7. 

The Emerald TabletThe most well-known saying from Hermeticism is the Hermetic axiom, “As above, so below.” This is a simplified version of a verse from the Emerald Tablet, which states:

That which is below is like that which is above & that which is above is like that which is below to do the miracles of one only thing.1

What does this enigmatic statement mean? It is an expression of an idea which is found across religions and spiritual traditions. It metaphorically explains the way that the microcosm, or the physical and spiritual world which we inhabit, mirrors the macrocosm, or the larger scope of the Cosmos and even God.
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  1. From Isaac Newton’s translation of the Emerald Tablet, c. 1680. 

Emerald Tablet coverThe Emerald Tablet, or Tabula Smaragdina,1 is a pivotal and important piece of Hermetica whose influence is still felt today. Many modern esotericists and occultists still look to the Emerald Tablet for inspiration and meaning. This can be frustrating, for though the tablet is brief, it is confusing and cryptic.
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  1. Does anybody else feel like “smaragdina” is a really unpleasant-looking word for a very beautiful substance?